For most of this season, University of Lethbridge soccer player Kenzel Aarts-Roman sat on the sidelines with a shoulder injury. But after helping his team rise to the top of college soccer in Alberta, the former W.L. Seaton player is poised to play a big role at nationals.
The Lethbridge Kodiaks won the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Soccer Championships last week from Oct. 25 to 27 in Edmonton. As a result, they’ll have to hurry over to Oshawa this weekend to prepare for the National Championships Nov. 6 to 9.
“After winning the (Alberta) championships we are now ranked second in all of Canada,” said Aarts-Roman, who developed his game at his Vernon high school before heading to college two years ago.
Having been sidelined with a dislocated shoulder for months, it’s been a challenge for the 20-year-old to work his way back onto the first unit of a Lethbridge team that’s full of high-skill players. But in the quarterfinals of the ACAC tournament against The King’s University he was given the chance to prove himself.
Aarts-Roman entered the game in the 80th minute with the score knotted at one goal apiece, and 13 minutes later with the game winding down to its final seconds, he made the most of the chance he’d been given.
“I heard all my teammates yelling at me saying ‘shoot! shoot! shoot!’”
So Aarts-Roman shot. And when he looked up and saw the ball fly into the net, he started running.
“I was in tears and shock,” he said. “The girl’s team was in the bleachers so I ran to them and celebrated with my teammates. We all dog-piled on and everyone was kissing my forehead.”
It was Aarts-Roman’s first goal in his two years of college play, and it couldn’t have come at a more important moment.
“It was quite an amazing experience that I’m so grateful to have taken part of.”
Having provided his team with some heroics, Aarts-Roman was rewarded by his coach with a full 90 minutes of playing time in the following game, taking the place of a senior player who received a red card in the match prior. He’s confident his coach’s trust in him will carry over to nationals.
“I just worked hard and kept on pushing throughout that game to really show that I have potential to fit into this national squad for the team, and I believe that I will have a really high responsibility for the coming games to man-mark different people,” he said.
Aarts-Roman plays holding mid and describes himself as an energy player who can neutralize opponents’ top players.
“My coach calls me ‘special teams.’ I usually get in for man-marking and hold defence. He puts me out there to be an engine pretty much.”
Days before the start of nationals, Aarts-Roman doesn’t sound like a young man who’s satisfied with his or his team’s accomplishments to date. He sounds like he’s hungry for more.
“We just really want to go out there and prove that Lethbridge College is not a school to mess around with, and we hope to bring home a medal.”
Lethbridge will play the opening match of the tournament at Oshawa’s Durham College on Wednesday, Nov. 6 versus the Vancouver Island University Mariners.